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What makes chimps unique? Candid Animal Cam meets our close relatives

  • Every Tuesday, Mongabay brings you a new episode of Candid Animal Cam, our show featuring animals caught on camera traps around the world and hosted by Romi Castagnino, our writer and conservation scientist.

Camera traps bring you closer to the secretive natural world and are an important conservation tool to study wildlife. This week we’re meeting our closest living relative: the chimpanzee.

Chimps are part of the great ape family which includes bonobos, gorillas, and orangutans. We share between 95 and 98 percent of DNA with them! Wild chimps only live in Central and West Africa. Most of their time is spent on smaller groups known as ‘parties’ of about 35 chimps. However, the largest known community had 150 members! Until 1960, chimps were thought to only eat plants. It was not until Dr. Jane Goodall observed them hunting and eating pigs, monkeys and other small mammals, that it was discovered they were omnivorous. In that same year, Dr. Goodall discovered an ability that until that year it was considered uniquely human: the use of tools. She watched as a chimpanzee bent a twig, stripped off it leaves, and used it to “fish” termites from their nest. Chimps are fascinating animals and even though we’ve been studying them for decades, we’re constantly learning new things about them. Watch the video to learn more about this species!

Special thanks to ChimpandSee for sharing this camera trap footage with us. ChimpandSee is the citizen science arm of the Pan African Programme: The Cultured Chimpanzee based out of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig Germany and is made up of a collaborative group of chimpanzee researchers and conservation organizations working across equatorial Africa.

You can be part of this citizen project! By scanning the videos from camera traps and identifying wild animals and their behaviors, you’ll help them understand the lives of these apes —their behaviors, relationships, and environments— and to extrapolate new ideas about human origins. Head over to ChimpandSee’s webpage to find out more.

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Banner photo by USAID Africa Bureau via Wikimedia commons

Romi Castagnino is Mongabay’s bilingual writer. Find her on Twitter and Instagram: @romi_castagnino